Four things we learned from Chicago Bears GM Ryan Poles on Thursday

Chicago Bears general manager Ryan Poles watches warmups before a preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Chicago.

LAKE FOREST – The roster is built and the season is here.

Bears general manager Ryan Poles and assistant GM Ian Cunningham met with members of the media Thursday to discuss the 53-man roster they have constructed for the 2022 season.

Here are the major takeaways from Thursday’s session.

Teven Jenkins likely isn’t going anywhere

Offensive lineman Teven Jenkins practiced for one day to open training camp, then disappeared with an undisclosed injury. Meanwhile, reports swirled that the Bears might be trying to trade Jenkins.

Two weeks later, Jenkins returned to the practice field and found himself buried as the third-string right tackle. A move inside to right guard changed everything. Jenkins now appears headed for a spot in the starting lineup at right guard. Jenkins has impressed Poles through all of that adversity.

“I told him how proud I am of him,” Poles said of Jenkins.

Jenkins has done everything the staff asked of him. He said this week that he’s beginning to feel comfortable at right guard.

“For him to come in and play guard, a position he wasn’t as familiar with, it’s just a testament to the kid, his resiliency, his work ethic,” said Cunningham, who like Poles was once an offensive lineman. “[We] couldn’t be more proud of him.”

Alex Leatherwood’s new start

The Bears claimed offensive lineman Alex Leatherwood off waivers on Wednesday. The 2021 first-round draft pick was waived by the Las Vegas Raiders a day earlier after falling out of favor with new head coach Josh McDaniels.

Leatherwood went 17th overall in last year’s draft, and with it came huge expectations. He started the first month of the 2021 season at right tackle, but had to move inside to right guard after struggling. Poles said one of the big things he told Leatherwood was to forget the draft and all those expectations.

“That’s over,” Poles said. “So let’s start from the ground floor. Let’s build you up and take your time and whatever that is, we want to put him in the best position to succeed.”

Poles declined to say if Leatherwood will play tackle or guard, although Leatherwood noted Thursday that he practiced at right tackle. The plan is for offensive line coach Chris Morgan to work with Leatherwood and determine where he is the best fit.

Relationship with Roquan Smith

Poles has faith that the relationship between the front office and linebacker Roquan Smith can be repaired. The front office and Smith could not come to an agreement on a contract extension this summer, so Smith will play out the final year of his rookie contract. He will make $9.7 million this season. The team also declined Smith’s trade request in early August.

Smith has already turned the page and is focused on football. He said Wednesday that he does not anticipate any further negotiations until after the season.

Poles said he understands why things were emotional for Smith. There’s a reason most players hire agents. It’s because an agent can shield the player from the nuts and bolts of contract negotiations. Without an agent, Smith had to play that role for himself.

“We’ve all been there, right?” Poles said. “You have disagreements and you have to come back together and be teammates. That’s what I expect.”

Bears could still add another WR

Poles kicked the news conference off by mentioning that there has been a lot of sleepless nights in the office over the past few days. The front office staff has been studying film, studying the waiver wire and studying free agency.

One position where they might not be done adding is receiver. The Bears officially placed receiver N’Keal Harry on injured reserve Thursday, opening up a spot on the 53-man roster. That will certainly be filled in the coming days.

The Bears have five receivers on the current 53-man roster and two are also injured. Veteran Byron Pringle and rookie Velus Jones Jr. are currently sidelined by minor injuries. Poles noted that he’s hopeful Pringle and Jones will be back soon.

Even so, they still could be looking to make an addition.

“We’re going to be relentless and constantly look for talent,” Poles said. “We’ll be aggressive when we need to be aggressive and conservative when we need to be conservative, but we’re always looking to get better.”

Sean Hammond

Sean Hammond

Sean is the Chicago Bears beat reporter for the Shaw Local News Network. He has covered the Bears since 2020. Prior to writing about the Bears, he covered high school sports for the Northwest Herald and contributed to Friday Night Drive. Sean joined Shaw Media in 2016.